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D.T - Irene the Sly: chapter 3

The young thief continues to the tower with her new companion.

Irene the Sly: Chapter 3

After a couple days of riding from the city, during one of their breaks, Kail finally asked Irene what she managed to steal from the vault. She said very little and handed him the bag. He first pulled out the rolled-up cloak and studied it carefully, "Well I will be damned they are certainly going to miss this piece," Kail said.

"What is it?" Irene asked.

Kail chuckled a little and said, "Don't even know what you stole, that's funny. It is a vanishing cloak; extremely hard to make a good one. I heard they traded with Dorgal for this piece. You made a great find on this." Then he stood up and wrapped the cloak around him, pulling the hood up and within moments he was entirely gone, faded into thin air.

Irene jumped to her feet and stepped back in surprise and fear. Moments later Kail reappeared just a little off from where he was standing, the hood down but cloak still wrapped around him. After some more study, he got bored and rolled the cloak back up and tossed it to her. "Good to know it works and is simple to use, but you keep it, I can't fight properly with that thing wrapped all tight around me." He then went back into the bag and pulled out the small dagger.

Kail removed it from its sheath and studied it. Then he pushed the end of it into the leather armor on his wrist and pulled it back out right away. "Aye, I see now. This must be the infamous 'piercing dagger' said to be able to pierce through any armor, metal, magic, or otherwise." He put the blade back into the sheath and tossed it to Irene along with the bag.

"You may not have been able to grab much, but you were able to acquire some great treasures."

Irene put them back into the bag and asked, "So you're letting me keep them?"

Kail nodded and said, "You earned them, besides I had no particular use for those mystic tools and was able to get away with something thanks to you." He stood up and pulled out the sword from his belt. It looked like an ordinary sword to Irene, save for the onyx color to it, instead of the normal grey.

He swung the blade around as if it was made of bamboo and said, "This is called a 'Crucen' blade, better than mithiril and matches well forged adamantite; lighter too. Takes a team of three, two blacksmiths and a magister, to make it. I watched some of them work on one too, it was weeks to complete just one and that was working tirelessly.

"Mind you I was hoping to obtain some mystic plate in there, or at least a crucen shield too. But this enchanted leather I am wearing has served me well in the past, I don't see why it won't do so in the future as well. Anyways you keep those treasures hidden away in that bag until I tell you it's safe to use them, as for the dagger, I suppose after we get you some new clothes I can start teaching you how to wield it."

The cold winter was fading away but spring was still not there yet and the further north they went, the colder it was for Irene. She quickly noticed along the way that they were now moving around the tower instead of straight towards it. They had stopped to rest and eat for a time and that's when Irene asked Kail why it was they were not going straight to the tower.

"The tower is inside the Evercain kingdom borders," Kail said. "And those borders happen to be protected by a great stone wall with many a patrol on top of it, anyone trying to climb it with say, a ladder, would be shot down easily by the sentinel archers on top. So we must enter the kingdom through the closest gate, which is in the Keshnir forest."

"But how do you know they will let us through?"

"Because no logical man would refuse a handful of gold just to keep out a single man and young girl. Not much damage two people could do on their own, especially if their intended residence is the tower. Anyways we're almost there to the small town of Yenmal, my friend will set you up with some proper clothes there. Think you can survive the cold out here a little longer? I know it's much colder the further away we get from the red lands, and outside in the open is nothing like sleeping in a house, even a run down one."

Irene kept as close to the fire as possible, as she always did when they stopped and lit one, and said, "Yes I can make it, just so long as you keep these fires up along the way."

Kail laughed and said, "Aye you can be sure of that little missy."

After their meal, they moved on and continued for a few more days until they made it to the small town of Yenmal. It was nothing like Ahnair city thought Irene. The buildings were spaced further apart, and all of them were made of wood or a mixture of straw and wood. Kail led her straight to one of the buildings in the middle of town and found his friend.

The woman he was talking about, his friend was a strange tall woman, wearing a showcase of cheap looking jewelry all around her body, but with a well-designed dress made from a poofy fur. Irene had not seen many women back in Ahnair dress like this, those that usually did she saw being escorted by different men on different days; was Kail's friend just like them?

Her appearance aside the woman, Gemma, as Kail called her, was rather kind in comparison to Kail. Although Kail had not been as rough as he first was with Irene. After some words between her and Kail, Gemma escorted Irene to the back room where she measured her entire body, head to toe and wrote it all down on some parchment.

She said not a word during it all and only hummed to herself. When she was done, she told them to come back in a couple days and she would have an 'old modified outfit' made up for Irene. Kail and Gemma then kissed one another's cheeks and Kail took Irene to the inn where they found a good warm meal and a single room with two beds.

That night while they slept inside the inn Irene had a nightmare about Eliah's death and woke up in a pool of sweat. She saw there was a small fire going and Kail was sitting on a chair in front of it, with a small liquid jug in one hand. "You had no problem sleeping before, so what's special about tonight?" Kail asked getting up to grab a second chair and place it alongside the fire.

Irene got out of the bed with her blanket wrapped around her and sat in the chair. Kail offered her the jug and she drank from it, immediately spitting the stuff inside of it out and coughing a lot. Kail laughed hard and took the jug from her and drinking it without problem. "What is that stuff?" Irene asked getting her coughing under control. "It didn't taste very good."

"It's wine, not the kind of drink you have for the taste; typically."

"Then why drink it at all?"

"It helps you sleep at night, drink enough of it and it helps you get through the day; until tomorrow then you need more. Eventually you get used to the taste."

They were silent for a time after that, just gazing into the fire. Irene finally got the nerve up to ask him something she had been wondering about for a while now. "Why are you going to climb the tower anyways? I mean you seem to have a good life back at Ahnair and the guard job appears to pay well: you have all that gold."

Kail chugged down more of the wine before he said anything. "I was once a knight, some time ago; me and my brother Duran. Me and Duran were with the invading forces of the Keshnir forest; ten-thousand men all charging the same gate at once. But it wasn't that simple, the gate was located at the edge of the forest with six leagues of trees between it and our borders.

"Take an army of that size in there and most the animals inside don't bother you, they know it's a death wish. But some of the more desperate ones or tamed ones had begun picking away at our troops as we made our way deeper inside. Anyways needless to say the Evercain forces had pushed us back from the gate, with the help of the rangers, I was one of the few to set eyes on the thing and still make it out of there alive.

"Well the defeat was brutal and of our ten-thousand only about six hundred made it out of the forest, me and Duran included. My commander let us stop at a village along the way back to the great city where a good number of the men went to a tavern for drinks. Me and Duran joined them all a little later, by then most of them were half drunk already. There were as many magisters as there were knights and common soldiers in there, but the magister pricks were arrogant and soon enough started trouble."

Kail spat into the fire and chugged down some more wine before continuing. "They started mouthing off to us how that crushing defeat was all our fault, and so on and so on. Was just one at first then a couple others joined in, Duran knew if it kept up longer we would be drawing our weapons and preparing to turn against one another. So god bless his soul he stepped in and talked two of the three men down, with kind words, a smile, and a round of drinks for them on his account.

"But that third one couldn't leave well enough alone, and he was offended by Duran's proposal and assaulted him with a blast of magic that threw him clear across the room, breaking his arm. Though Duran was tough mind you, and fast. He raced across the room, sword drawn, and smacked that magister on the head with the pommel of his sword so hard the man was knocked out cold.

"His two buddies didn't take kind of that and together they cast a spell of fire that incinerated my brother in agonizing fire. All of us stood up, tension at its peak, swords drawn, magisters spells ready to go. Commander stepped in then, and hollered for everyone to sit back down or he would have their heads for treason.

"I was still in shock though, couldn't believe my eyes; my little brother dead. Killed right in front of me, and not by the enemy, no by some drunk and arrogant magisters, and my so called 'commander' was going to let them off with it too. I rose to my feet drew my sword and walked up to them when they had their backs turned and chopped their heads clean off.

"I fled after that, spent a couple years in hiding til I couldn't take that life choice anymore and went back to see the king directly and atone for my actions, I was prepared to be executed. But I was saved by the word of the commander who, apparently, regretted letting those two magisters get away so easily with my brother's death that night.

"So my life was spared but my knighthood revoked and I was set to that guard duty with the mystic vault as another form of punishment. And then came the dream, and blah blah blah."

Kail finished off his jug of wine and tossed it aside then looked to Irene and asked, "So you think you can sleep a little better now? Knowing your sad story is about the same as everyone else's?"

Irene scowled at Kail but got up and climbed back into bed, falling asleep not long after.

Gemma presented Irene's finished outfit by high noon the next day. It was simple brown fur clothing that fit around Irene well, warming her up greatly, and allowed her to move easy enough. Gemma also offered Irene a tight fitted dark blue outfit, which was made of a stretchy material and was complete with, pants, boots, and a full sleeved shirt.

Kail was adamant about the extra clothing but Gemma insisted. "It's my old rangers outfit," she said. "For a time I thought being a ranger would be fun and exciting, took me three weeks to grow bored of it. Anyways I couldn't find it in me to throw it out nor could I just sell it off. But you my dear, I feel it will serve you well. It's on the house too, consider it your payment for having to put up with this hard crooked man." She glared at Kail.

"Someone needs to toughen her up more," Kail argued. "Surviving in the slums takes cunning aye, but surviving outside of a walled city, gonna need to be tough."

Gemma looked back to Irene and said, "Sometimes a drop of wisdom can come out of his fountain of stupid, so be sure to keep an ear out for those rare moments and you might learn something useful from him."

Irene giggled a little; Kail did seem to talk a lot of nonsense here and there.

After paying Gemma and Irene got into her fur outfit and carefully folded the other one and placed it into her bag, they moved along. During their next rest stop they kept the fire burning longer so Kail could start teaching Irene a little of how to fight. He had never taught anyone before and Irene was so small he couldn't teach her how to wrestle or fight with her fists, so instead he taught her how to dodge attacks and move around her opponent to get in close and strike with her dagger.

He used the scabbard of his sword for practice since he didn't have an unsharpened practice blade to use, but it worked just well. Whenever she messed up her footing, or too eagerly advanced upon him she was hit hard and came out with several bruises.

She made little progress by the time they made it to the boundaries of the Keshnir forest, but they still had a ways to go before the tower. For the time being Kail told her they would halt all training until they were out of the forest and in the lands of the Evercain kingdom; she needed the time to rest and heal anyways.

They were careful as they went into the woods and Kail took selected paths, his hand was always wrapped around the handle of his sword and his eyes darting around as they went, but nothing came to them; the forest was disturbingly silent. When they stopped to rest and eat Irene took it upon herself to practice a few maneuvers with her dagger while Kail continued his vigilance.

By the third day of their trek through the forest he calmed down more and during one of their rest stops he said, "I heard many a strange whispers back in town about the animals leaving the forest, but I didn't truly believe it until now."

"It is kinda scary," Irene commented.

"Downright eerie more like it. Not natural for so many animals to be fleeing their homeland like this. Not even many squirrels, birds, or rabbits around here. Good thing I loaded up on supplies back in town, otherwise we'd be in trouble."

"I never ate birds, squirrels, or rabbits before; do they taste bad?" Irene asked.

"Aye at first they can, once you became used to normal food. But soon enough you stop noticing the bad taste and it just becomes food, sometimes good, most times you don't care enough though."

The following days of journey through the woods were filled with more silence, Kail said very little and Irene had nothing more to ask of him at the time; though they grew accustomed to the silence now, eerie as it may be. Finally she started to grow tired of the forest, and was scared they were lost in it. "How long until we reach the gate," She asked.

Kail thought about the answer briefly then answered, "At this pace, two day's tops."

"How do you know where to go?" Irene asked a little doubtful of Kail.

Kail raised his arm and pointed south, "Because I have been following the border wall to the gate. Right now we are still in the thicket, but the Great Elm Gate has a small clearing before it.

"The builder of the wall and the gate was very smart, he put it right by the edge of the forest, close enough to hinder people from the other side of it, but far enough from the trees to ignore reaching vines that would naturally tear away at it. As for the clearing itself before the gate, well as it were the forest is thickest between it on all sides. Simply impossible to get a horse through there without cutting the trees down, and units wearing plate mail have a hell of a time just getting through by themselves, so only those of us wearing light armor made it to see the gate.

"Damn thing is an even stronger defense point then that famous bridge of theirs; I don't know what it's called. Anyways they could just take a dozen of their kingdoms best archers and pick away at our troops as we tried to get into that clearing. But that bastard Thrain was smart, and picked us off bit by bit while we searched for the gate. Whatever say I, it's a time long passed and the king won't be fool enough to try that strategy again."

When they arrived at the Great Elm Gate they were met with an arrow shot down in front of their feet. They halted immediately and Kail kept his hands to his sides, away from his sword. "Who goes there?" Shouted a man from atop the wall above the gate.

"Just a man with his daughter, searching for a better life beyond those walls," Kail shouted back in answer.

The archer was silent after that but the gate began to slowly rise until half a dozen men came through it, then it shut itself. They stopped several feet away from Kail and Irene and studied them. Then the man in the lead of the group asked, "Why should we let you in, you're not traders, merchants, or rangers, what value to you have to the kingdom that's worth your entry?"

Kail scoffed, he knew what the man was asking for, and he was entirely prepared to turn away if he didn't get a bribe worthy of entrance into the kingdom borders. But Kail also worried that if he paid him now they could just shoot them down with arrows and take the money. Guards that could be bartered into a bribe were decent men but not all together honest, but guards who downright asked for one, even if in vague terms, could be all together evil.

He hesitated still thinking, but the time to choose was now upon him and he had to make sure it was the right decision he went with. Setting his bag down Kail reached into it for the bag of coins, keeping his eyes on the men while he did. He pulled the bag of gold out and tossed it to the man. He caught it and Kail turned his eyes to the archers to make sure they were not going to shoot him down now.

The man looked into the bag pulled out some of the coins then tied it up and gestured for Kail and Irene to follow him and his men. The gate rose and they walked through the small tunnel. Once through the man said, "Welcome to Evercain, don't go causing trouble while you're here now."

Once they got some good distance from the gate Kail relaxed and let out a sigh of relief. They had a lot of walking to do after that but Irene had gotten used to all the walking from their journey through the forest. They stopped by the first town they saw along the way and Kail had enough money left over to buy a horse; although their journey was less haste-full since arriving in Evercain and this gave Irene more time to practice.

The two were surprised the find the Tower base was enormous, stretching around for miles by their sights. Around the base of the tower, near the doors, was a small dock of wooden boards; standing just a few feet above the soggy ground. Kail heard rumors about the dying grounds around the tower but wasn't sure if that too was a myth, he figured some workers might have been commissioned to build the dock of wood by perhaps a noble from Evercain.

Standing before the doors, lounging around, were just over a dozen men, sixteen by Kail's counting. All of them mischievous looking, and dangerous. Kail knew this would be trouble he could not avoid and turned to Irene and said, "Get that cloak out and put it on, if trouble arises imagine yourself being unseen and it will do the rest, then sneak around the men and go into the tower."

Irene did as he said; pulling out the cloak and putting it on, strangely it fit her as well as it did Kail despite their size differences. She questioned him after it was on her, "And if trouble comes then what about you?"

"You worry about yourself and I will do the same. And keep your distance from me when you vanish, I don't want to be tripping over you in the middle of a fight."

As soon as the men at the entrance doors noticed the two they approached, one of them coming forward and halting Kail and Irene while the others stood back with wicked smiles on their faces. "There is a toll to be enterin this here tower," the man said. "Fifty gold pieces, each."

"Hmm fifty gold pieces a person, seems rather fair for a chance at unlimited wealth and more," Kail said.

The man smiled and his comrades half laughed, then he said, "Oh I agree it is a fair price, so pay up."

Kail tilted his head back, eyeing the other men once more and said, "You know I have to wonder how many strong men and warriors must have passed by here trying to get in only to have you stop them with a toll. I don't see any dead bodies around here so all of them must have paid up? You all must be very strong to have scared such powerful men to paying your toll."

"Yeah we are, so pay up or get lost!" the man said, his anger growing.

"Then again, if you are that strong then why not ascend the tower yourselves? Aye with that wish you wouldn't need to be standing around here like a bunch of lowly thugs. But you know what I think; I think you're all weak. And I know that if you don't get the fuck out of my way in the next two minutes I'll cut you all down one by one."

"Wrong choice of words pal," the man said as he reached for his sword.

Kail was faster though and punched him right in the nose, the man paused from pulling out his sword and Kail had enough time to draw his and lop the man's head off. Irene threw on the hood of her cloak then imagined herself disappearing; she felt a tingling vibe all over her but otherwise had no idea if it worked.

As the other men charged after Kail, Irene quickly stepped back to avoid the conflict. Kail met them head on; the ring of metal clashing filled his ears. He parried and blocked many of their swords but they were too many and soon things were looking bad for him. One of them got in a good swing on his back the blade slid harmlessly across his armor and Kail took down two more men by then.

Irene began to move around them to the tower entrance as the sounds of metal clashing filled the air more. She got to the side of everyone when she heard another scream, she turned and saw another of the thugs drop dead and Kail still fighting strong. She made it to the entrance of the tower, even this close the inside looked like infinite darkness.

She heard a scream, it came from Kail. She turned to see him fall to his knees; taking down another thug with him though three still remained. The three remaining then shoved all their blades through his throat, maroon blood spurt out from his mouth and he fell to his side, dead.

The tears fell freely down Irene's face and she covered her mouth to quiet her scream. She was alone again, and had nowhere left to go; so she turned around and ran into the darkness.

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Copyright © © Jake Pendragon all rights reserved 2015

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